WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for The Mighty Thor #25
Marvel fans had theories about the identity of the new God of Thunder... but few guessed it would be Volstagg, the food-loving member of Thor's 'Warriors Three.' And in case some fans familiar with his portrayal in the Marvel Cinematic Universe think that means a jollier, more fun-loving star of The Mighty Thor, we have some bad news. Thanks to the latest issue of the series, readers know that Volstagg claims Mjolnir to bring a new kind of Thor - a War Thor - to the cosmos. The truly tragic part of the story is why he has cast aside diplomacy and compassion to raise a hammer of war for the greater order of the Ten Realms.
His ascension to the role of one of Asgard's greatest champions comes in a time of upheaval in Marvel's Thor universe, almost all of which is due to writer Jason Aaron's acclaimed subversion and unpredictable narrative. It's a point in Asgard's history in which Thor Odinson is "unworthy" of Mjolnir, his former lover Jane Foster has taken his place as Thor, and even an evil Captain America wields Mjolnir for himself. All things considered, Volstagg turning from lovable gourmand to wrathful demigod is easy to believe.
But the story of his time as the War Thor begins with a heartbreak and defeat few could endure.
The Tease of The New Thor
The reveal of Volstagg is a shocking one, but it's a twist teased some time ago - comic readers knew that a new figure had claimed the title of War Thor, but their identity before taking the hammer was the mystery. Since there sounds like half a dozen versions of Mjolnir circulating through the Marvel Universe at present, a brief explanation of why there was even a hammer available for Volstagg to claim. As mentioned before, Thor Odinson is currently headlining the Unworthy Thor series - a comic in which Odinson recently refused Mjolnir and a possible return to his powers on principle. To be clear, the Mjolnir in question is actually Ultimate Mjolnir, the hammer of the version of Thor that existed in the parallel, "Ultimate" Universe of Marvel Comics.
When the Ultimate Unvierse collapsed, some heroes and relics managed to tear through into Marvel's regular reality. Ultimate Mjolnir was among them, so with Jane Foster currently holding Thor's old hammer, the Ultimate variant sat unclaimed (Jane's hammer was stolen by Captain America in Secret Empire, but the less said about that the better). When Odinson refused, he promised to protect the relic until it could call to a new master who was worthy of the powers it imbued. The Unworthy Thor #5 showed that new figure take it after seeing horrors throughout the cosmos, unsure if they were truly up for the task.
With Mjolnir whispering that they were needed - that a War Thor was needed - they transformed to become it.
What Drives Volstagg To Become The War Thor
As we alluded to earlier, the Ten Realms have descended into relative levels of chaos or disorder, with wars either raging or brewing throughout the worlds of Yggdrasil, the World Tree. It's a growing message of doom that Volstagg both speaks and shares with his fellow ambassadors of the Ten Realms upon their meeting in Nidavellir, the home realms of the Dwarves. As they discover upon their arrival, the invasion of the Light Elves' homelands by Malekith and his Dark Elves have driven countless refugees to Dwarven territory. With nowhere near enough food to support their numbers, they have called on the other Realms for help. Volstagg is the most eager to feed the refugee children he finds among the crowd... but the issue of the Light Elf refugees is solved almost immediately.
Before any plan can be conceived, suddenly and without warning the refugee camp is engulfed in a flaming explosion. It's soon deduced to be an attack from Muspelheim (the Norse version of a Hell-like nightmare) when the fire goblins footsoldiers follow close behind. Volstagg does his best to remain his positive self, cradling the children safely and promising that everything will be alright. Until a fire goblin lands directly ahead of them and, before Volstagg can react, incinerates the children in his arms. It's a moment delivered with as much heartbreak as one would hope, and the sudden change it triggers in Volstagg is worth the price of admission alone.
Losing himself in a righteous rage, his friends soon find him unscathed from the impossible-to-extinguish-flames... having used fire goblin blood to protect himself. That image says all Aaron and his art team needs to for the coming transformation to hit home.
The War Thor is Born
Even though Volstagg survives to return home to Asgard, he no longer has an appetite for food or drink (which tells you just how much his ordeal has changed his view of the cosmos). Having seen the worst horrors brought by allowing Yggdrasil to succumb to conflict and chaos - having felt those horrors with his bare hands - the formerly friendly Asgardian sees that the path to peace will be drawn with blood, and more blood. And it will take a War Thor to see the mission through to its end.
It's a poignant twist to plant such a dramatic twist in the horror of war, not the glory - especially when Volstagg's views and proposed solution are so inherently extreme. It's hard to argue that a stronger sense of order, or a more courageous, ruthless, and brutal figure is needed to prevent whatever disaster the forces that be have coming. But for fans of Thor's large, food-loving, and nevertheless powerful comrade, it's about time he got the chance to show what he's truly capable of.
The saga of the War Thor promises to be a journey few Thor fans will want to sit out on... even if it's Volstagg's impressive belly we're missing already.
The Mighty Thor #5 is available now.
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